01 July 2004
White House Daily Briefing, July 1
President's schedule, Iraq/Saddam Hussein trial/ security situation, Civil Rights Act anniversary, July 4th holiday, economic event, Afghani elections, budget, war on terror, immigration reform
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press July 1.
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
July 1, 2004
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
- President's schedule
- Saddam Hussein trial
- Iraq security situation
- Civil Rights Act anniversary
- 4th of July Event
- Economic event
- New Iraq government
- Afghani elections
- War on Terror
- Immigration reform
1:01 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good afternoon. I have one announcement to make to the President's schedule. The President will welcome His Majesty, King Mohammed of Morocco to the White House on July 8th. The President looks forward to his meeting with the leader of a close ally of the United States, a country that the President recently designated a major non-NATO ally, and with which the United States has recently signed a free trade agreement.
This afternoon, the President looks forward to welcoming members of the civil rights community to the East Room to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. The actual signing of the act took place in the East Room and was a landmark day for America. It moved us forward to be a better nation, committed to equal rights and equal opportunity for all Americans. This is a day to pay tribute to the courageous men and women who fought long and hard to bring about this historic change. And so the President looks forward to participating in that event later today in the East Room.
And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.
Question: Scott, has the President seen Saddam Hussein at this point, has he seen the images, and did he have any reaction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, as I told you earlier today, the President was participating in his usual briefings this morning and tending to official business. So he did not get a chance to see it when it first came out -- when the news coverage was first coming out on the TV screen. The President, a short time ago, was able to see some of the replay of the news coverage from the arraignment earlier today.
The President is pleased that Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders are facing justice from the Iraqi people in an Iraqi court.
Q: Did he, in following up Ann Compton's question, does he agree with Saddam that Presidents are above the law?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, Saddam Hussein is going to say all sorts of things during this trial. What's important is that Saddam Hussein and his band of oppressors are facing justice from the Iraqi people in an Iraqi court. And today this is case number one; the people of Iraq vs. Saddam Hussein. Justice is being served to Saddam Hussein and his brutal band of oppressors by the Iraqi people in an Iraqi court. Saddam Hussein is facing the justice he denied the Iraqi people, most notably the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis who were victims of his brutality.
Q: How many did we kill in this war?
MR. McCLELLAN: And, Helen, I appreciate your opinions, but I'm going to keep moving on to other questions.
Q: Scott, can I follow up with just one thing? Saddam Hussein also said, rough translation in this proceeding, he said, this is all theater by Bush the criminal to help him with his campaign. Did the President have any specific reaction to that comment?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Kate. Like I said, Saddam Hussein is going to say all sorts of things. What's important is that justice is being served to Saddam Hussein and his band of oppressors by the Iraqi people in an Iraqi court. Saddam Hussein's regime was responsible for the systematic terrorizing, torture, killing and raping of innocent Iraqis. Saddam Hussein's regime was responsible for grave atrocities against the Iraqi people. And this step today begins a process by which the Iraqi people can help bring closure to the dark chapter of their history.
Q: What's our measure at this point, at this turning point, of the extent of the resistance of the insurgency? How large is it? Who is it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, those are questions that are best addressed to coalition forces. They're the ones who are on the ground in the best position to talk about our military efforts and the security situation on the ground. Obviously, there are still some terrorists and remnants of the former regime that are intent on derailing the transition to freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people.
But democracy is taking root in Iraq. Sovereignty has been transferred. The Iraqi people are moving forward on conducting elections and bringing about a better future. They will not prevail. You've heard from Prime Minister Allawi who has made very strong statements saying that these terrorist elements will be defeated, that they will not be allowed to prevail. The new government is strongly committed to addressing the security situation. They recognize that that is a top priority for moving forward on a free, peaceful, and democratic future. And you've also heard from other leaders in Iraq that are not in the government who have called for addressing these security threats, as well.
Q: Do we think that we have -- that we have pretty good intelligence on the -- who these people are and how many there are?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's important, in this aspect is -- that we're partnering now with the Iraqi people, to address these security threats. There are security threats that remain. There are dangers and challenges that lie ahead as we move forward, helping the Iraqi people hold elections. We are there to partner with the interim government and the Iraqi security forces to address these threats. We're equipping and training Iraqi security forces, and as Iraqis become more involved in overseeing their own security, they are the ones who know the environment better, know the people in those areas, and they're able to provide intelligence that we maybe otherwise would not be able to get. So they recognize the importance of addressing these threats, and the Iraqi people are helping to provide some of that important intelligence, as well.
Q: Scott, is the situation then now about what the White House expected? Is it worse than the White House expected, or better than the White House expected?
MR. McCLELLAN: The situation in Iraq?
Q: The situation in Iraq --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're pleased in terms of the transfer of sovereignty. That's an important step in the President's five-point plan for success. The President has outlined a five-point plan that will address the security situation, broaden international participation in Iraq -- which we're seeing the international community is standing firmly behind the Iraqi people -- and move forward on holding elections, and move forward on the reconstruction of Iraq. We're making great progress in those areas.
There are still challenges and difficulties that remain on the road ahead. The terrorists recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. They know a free and peaceful Iraq will be a major blow to their interests, and that a free and peaceful Iraq will help transform what is a dangerous region in the world, and make the world a more secure place in which to live, and make the world a better place in which to live. So we still have many challenges ahead as we work with the Iraqi people to help them build a brighter future.
Q: So would you characterize, is this about what you expected in terms of security and moving forward on this? Is it better or worse?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's still ongoing security threats, Carl, that need to be addressed --
Q: So it's not as bad as --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I think that our military leaders on the ground are the ones who are the best place to characterize it, and they've talked about those ongoing security threats. There are people, dangerous people in Iraq, like Zarqawi, who we've seen the kind of barbaric nature of Zarqawi and his terrorist network. He is someone that has been in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove the regime from power, and he remains in Iraq. The State Department, just yesterday, increased the reward for capturing Zarqawi. The Iraqi people recognize that that is a security threat that continues to need to be addressed. And we're there to work with them to address those threats.
We have knocked out some of his lieutenants and we've knocked out some other parts of his network, who are no longer able to operate, by some of the intelligence that we have received and acted on. We receive actionable intelligence and we take steps to follow through on it. And you've seen that by going after some of the safe houses in Iraq, as well.
Q: So you'd say this is about what you'd expected?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, again, like I said, in terms of the security situation, those on the ground are in the best position to characterize the situation on the ground. There are ongoing threats that remain. That's where our focus is, is on addressing those threats and eliminating those threats, working with the Iraqi people to do so.
Q: Scott, two subjects. First, just very quickly, in response to Kate's question, you mentioned that President Bush has had an opportunity to view a replay of the live TV coverage. I wonder if you could be a bit more specific. Did he view live television coverage that was a replay of Saddam's thing, or did the White House tape it for him and he watched a tape?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, this was just on the TV outside the Oval. It was a replay of some of the news coverage of Saddam Hussein in court. And he was only able -- he only saw a short portion of it.
Q: Okay. Secondly, on the event that's going to be in the East Room today -- I was actually looking at the numbers today, and in 1960, Richard Nixon captured 32 percent of the black vote; in 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush captured 12 percent; Ronald Reagan got 9 percent; George W. Bush captured 8 percent of the black vote in the year 2000. It is the lowest of any Republican presidential nominee since these records were being kept in 1960. And I wonder what prospects you hold out for advancing that at all in this coming election?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I remember having worked for him as Governor. The very first time he ran for Governor, there was a lower percentage of the African-American vote he received. And then after he had been in office and the people saw his record of accomplishment, in terms of providing equal opportunity for all people in the state, those numbers went up significantly, and he received a strong showing in his re-election as Governor.
And I think that if you look at our record, which is what the President will be talking about in this election, it is a record of accomplishment. We have worked to provide equal opportunity and equal rights for all Americans. And the President is proud of his record, and he will continue to reaching out -- reaching out to people from all walks of life and all backgrounds, starting with, in terms of the record, the most important domestic policy initiative in this area that I think people should look at is the commitment the President made to improving our public schools and passing the No Child Left Behind Act. We are now working to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn and succeed and that parents know how their school -- their public schools are performing. Parents have more of a say in their children's education. We're saying that every child can learn and can succeed. We're not giving up on anyone.
The President is also working to close the minority homeownership gap. One of the goals he set out was to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the end of the decade. What we've seen to date is that 1.5 million minorities have reached this dream of homeownership.
So this is about expanding opportunity for all Americans. He's also moved forward to strengthen our economy and provide an environment where people are able to find jobs; people that want to work are able to find an opportunity to work. We've seen that the policies we put in place are working. Small businesses are flourishing, and entrepreneurs, as well.
And so I think look at the record. We're also vigorously enforcing our civil rights laws at the Justice Department. It's a record that is a strong one. And this was the first administration, I would remind you, that banned racial profiling in federal law enforcement. So we'll continue talking about our record, and we're glad to compare that with anyone's.
Q: Can I follow up on that topic for a second? Is there, aside from these large-scale efforts to, for example, improve the economy or public education, are there specific outreach efforts that the administration or the campaign is making to the African American community? And would the administration consider that those efforts had failed if, for example, the President doesn't go above 10 percent in the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. In terms of the campaign, I'm sure they'd be glad to talk to you about our outreach efforts. The President believes in reaching out to all Americans, and that includes the African American community, as well. I might point out, too, another area where the President has made strong progress is by reaching out to faith-based and community organizations to help people in need and to help those who are suffering. Those who have a proven record -- those organizations that have a proven record of helping people in need. So those are important issues to highlight.
Q: Scott, given your long explanation of this event today, should we rightfully interpret this as a campaign event?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Ed, I don't know where you're getting that from. This is an event to mark a milestone in our nation's history. And this is an event to pay tribute to all those who worked so long and hard to make the Civil Rights Act a reality. There is still more that we need to do to build upon this record and make sure that we're providing equal opportunities for all Americans. But this day marked a day that it was enshrined in our laws. It is something that the President will continue working to build upon through the initiatives I outlined.
Q: Scott, as far as who is going to be there today, we heard that tentatively the daughter of President Johnson would be there.
MR. McCLELLAN: I believe that's correct. We'll get you a list of those who will be attending. And I did see her name on the list. So I suspect she will be there.
Q: Elijah Cummings -- is Elijah Cummings --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I believe we reached out to the Congressional Black Caucus, and he will be here representing the Congressional Black Caucus.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me get you the list. I don't know the entire list, but I do remember those individuals were on there.
Q: You said Elijah Cummings?
MR. McCLELLAN: I believe he is attending.
Q: And Robert Byrd or Fritz Hollings? They filibustered it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep moving, Jeff.
Q: Scott, as we approach the 4th of July, does the President have any message to the thousands of service personnel who are going to be recalled, reactivated or have their tours extended?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's what I said yesterday. We can never say thank you enough to our men and women in the military who are serving and sacrificing in defense of freedom, the men and women who are serving and sacrificing to make the world a safer and better place and make America more secure. We are engaged in a global war on terrorism. That war on terrorism continues, and we appreciate all those who have signed up voluntarily to be a part of our military and be a part of making America more secure for future generations.
In terms of decisions made by the military, obviously they look at what the needs are and make determinations based on those needs and work to make sure that we're meeting our needs. But we're forever grateful for the service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform. That includes the active duty, that includes the Guard and that includes the reserve.
Q: Has the President changed his mind about the draft? MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q: As legal proceedings for Saddam Hussein get underway, the future is unpredictable. And I'm wondering, does the U.S. have any contingency plans for the however remote possibility is that he's acquitted?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can speculate all you want on that, but we believe Saddam Hussein will face justice by the Iraqi people and be held accountable for the atrocities he committed. It's very well known some of the atrocities he's committed. All you have to do is go and look at what happened in Alaja, where he gassed his own people. All you have to do is go and listen to some of the stories from families of the victims, and the victims themselves, who were brutalized by this regime, people who went into torture rooms and were brutally tortured; women who were systematically raped by this -- at the direction of this regime; all you have to do is go and listen to those seven Iraqi merchants who came to America to have a prosthetic hand put on, where Saddam Hussein had ordered that their hands be cut off, simply because he needed someone to blame for a weak economy, and he turned to seven random merchants and had x's marked on their heads and had their hands cut off. The President was pleased to welcome them to the White House and pleased to see the generosity of Americans who brought them over here and provided them with a prosthetic hand, so that they could try to get on with their lives.
Q: I mean, if the courts ultimately do come up with a different conclusion than that, the U.S. doesn't have some sort of plan, or they would -- what would happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can speculate all you want on that. I just answered your question.
Go ahead, Les.
Q: The Boston Herald reports that during an interview, Boston's Mayor, Thomas Menino, who is, as you know, the national co-chairman of the Kerry campaign, called the rest of that Kerry campaign -- and I quote -- "small-minded and incompetent and trying to find a scapegoat for their incompetency." And my first question: Neither the President, nor anyone else in the White House would find fault or disagree with Mayor Menino, would they?
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you asking me to add to that?
Q: Well, I'd be delighted, if you'd like. Nobody disagrees with Mayor Menino in the White House, do they?
MR. McCLELLAN: You've heard directly from him. I'll let his words stand on their own.
Q: All right. When Senator Kerry came to Baltimore this week, he was introduced by Democrat Mayor Martin O'Malley, who announced that he is more alarmed about the Bush administration than he is about al Qaeda, which absolutely astounding statement evoked no dissent from candidate Kerry. My question: Can the President, or anyone else at the White House, cite any other mayor in the United States who has made a statement of such outrageous asininity?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, people are entitled to their opinions, no matter how wrong they are.
Q: No matter how wrong they are -- and you believe this was wrong, don't you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, April.
Q: Don't you, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: You just heard me address it.
Q: Going back to the civil rights issue, quickly. You say there's a long record, but critics are saying there isn't. Number one, civil rights things like -- from the NAACP have not here. Also, the nomination of Charles Pickering right after President Bush went to meet with Coretta Scott King -- and Dr. King's grave -- and also an issue on affirmative action, an issue of supporting the University of Michigan -- or not supporting the University of Michigan, going against the University of Michigan in its amicus brief. So how does this gel or mesh with this long record on civil rights for the African American --
MR. McCLELLAN: I urge you to look at the record and lower the rhetoric. The record is very clear and it is a strong record of achievement in terms of building upon our efforts to provide equal opportunity for all Americans --
Q: Well, like you say all Americans --
MR. McCLELLAN: As the President has pointed out, when he quotes --
Q: Many African Americans are saying it's not targeted specifically to the African American community, when you target other communities.
MR. McCLELLAN: As I pointed out earlier, we passed historic education reforms to improve our public schools and make sure that every child had the opportunity to learn and succeed. Those reforms have been put in place. There's now accountability in our public school systems, which expects people to meet high standards because the President believes in every child -- every child can learn and succeed. So look at the record, not the rhetoric -- that's what I would say.
Q: Well, do you think that African Americans in this country are wrong when they say the Republican Party walks away from them, especially, as you say, that you're placing it as an umbrella --
MR. McCLELLAN: I've seen a lot of coverage that -- about remarks made about the Democratic Party, April, and I don't think you can attach comments to just one group of people like that.
Q: This morning, Saddam Hussein was told he had the right to a lawyer and that if he couldn't afford one, one could be appointed for him. Saddam Hussein said something along the lines of that the Americans say that he has millions of dollars stashed away in Switzerland, so, presumably, he -- this is his words -- so, presumably, he can afford a lawyer. Would we, in fact, allow Saddam Hussein to use looted money that's stashed away in Switzerland?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about those specific reports. I'll be glad to look into them. But you pointed out an interesting thing -- justice and the rule of law now prevail in Iraq, in the new Iraq. Oppression and fear are part of the past; this regime is part of the past; and the step that is being taken today begins a process by which closure can be brought to the Iraqi people, to their dark history. And Saddam Hussein is going to have the justice that he denied hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and the entire Iraqi people, under his oppression.
Q: Scott, in perhaps the most optimistic view yet, the Army general in charge of getting Iraqi security forces ready to take over the security in Iraq says he plans to have 250,000 Iraqis trained and in place by early next year. He says, at that time, American troops can start coming home. Does the President agree with that optimism?
MR. McCLELLAN: You've heard what the President has said. The President has made it clear that we will stay as long as necessary and not a day longer. Sovereignty has been transferred to the Iraqi people. They are moving forward on holding elections so that they can have a representative, elected government in place next year.
We are there to partner with the Iraqi people as they move forward on improving their security situation and rebuilding their infrastructure. We've made a lot of progress, but there's more to do. We're also there to partner with them to address the security situation. That's a high priority, and the best way to do that is to make sure that Iraqi forces are trained and equipped to provide for their security going forward. We want to -- we will be there to make sure that they are fully equipped and trained to provide for their future security.
NATO has made it a commitment, as you saw earlier this week, to help with those efforts at the request of Prime Minister Allawi. The international community is coming together to stand with the Iraqi people as they move forward on a brighter future. And we're pleased with the progress that is being made and the commitment from the international community.
Go ahead, Ken. Let me keep going. Ken, go ahead.
Q: Do you have any further information on tomorrow's economic event in the East Room?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. The President looks forward to welcoming some small business owners and entrepreneurs to the White House tomorrow to talk about our growing economy. Our economy is strong and growing stronger with 1.4 million new jobs created since last August -- nine straight months of job growth and increasingly strong consumer confidence. It's clear that the economic policies put in place by the President are working.
And I expect that the President is going to highlight the fact that American workers are finding jobs and that America's small businesses are seizing these opportunities. Small business is the backbone of our economy, and I expect that the President will also emphasize that there is more that needs to be done. He will discuss the importance of continuing with his pro-growth, pro-jobs policies outlined in his six-point plan. So that's what the event will be about. And he'll probably meet with some of the small business -- small business people beforehand.
Q: Is it a --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, it is.
Q: Take that a step further, is he going to echo that theme in -- on July 4 in Charleston, or is that going to be some other theme?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you can look back to probably his past remarks. We'll try to provide you a little more of a preview for his July 4th remarks tomorrow.
Greg, you had something.
Q: You mentioned the training, is there -- that was one of the pledges that was secured on the recent trip. Is there is a time line for the way forward that you see in terms of when that begins to fall in place and how the details will be worked out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Remember that General Petraeus is in place overseeing the training of Iraqi security forces right now so that we can move forward at a more accelerated rate to get those security forces in places. But we want to make sure that they are receiving quality training and that they're fully prepared to address these security threats in the future, going forward.
In terms of the specifics related to NATO, those are discussions that NATO is now having since the agreement was just reached earlier this week. And they'll be discussing that with the interim government, as well. But we're pleased -- we're pleased by the commitment to answer Prime Minister Allawi's call for help with the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. And, obviously, I think NATO will move forward as quickly as they can in those discussions.
Q: But we don't have any -- a precise time line, in terms of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind -- no, those are discussions that had -- that are really just getting underway now that the commitment has been made. Obviously, those are discussions that they will have with the interim government. But you already have 16 NATO nations there that are providing help with the security situation and that have troops in the country. And you already have training and equipping of Iraqi security forces that continues while NATO is working to address those specifics.
Q: Scott, what is the President's opinion of Prime Minister Allawi's suggestion that Sunni insurgents should be offered an amnesty so that they can participate in the political process?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what -- well, first of all, these are decisions, as you are now seeing, that will be made by the interim government. It's a fully sovereign nation. But I think, if I recall, what Prime Minister Allawi said was that they wanted to reach out to all Iraqis to be a part of the future, with the exception of those who have blood on their hands who are part of the atrocities that were committed against the Iraqi people previously. So I think you need to look at the way he qualified that. But obviously, those are decisions that the interim government will make, and he's making -- he's making decisions that he believes are in the best interest of the Iraqi people.
Q: But would the administration be prepared to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to ask those questions of the interim government. They are in place now. It is their country, and they will serve during this interim period as they move forward on holding elections.
Q: So if the interim government were to allow Sunni insurgents and send Muqtada al-Sadr to participate in the political process, if that was the --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that that's an accurate characterization of what he said. Again, if you look back at what he said, he talked about how those with blood on their hands need to be held accountable for their crimes.
Q: Scott, is the administration concerned about Afghanistan and the elections slipping? There's been some reporting that perhaps the election might sort of pass September. Are you concerned about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm glad you brought up Afghanistan, as well. I mean, we're talking about two countries here where 50 million people have been liberated from brutal, oppressive regimes. We are working closely with the international community to help Afghanistan move forward on holding free, fair and open elections. NATO made a commitment earlier this week to expand the International Security Assistance Force, as well, and one part of their mission is to help provide for security so the elections can be held.
But, obviously, in terms of what the exact date of those elections, those are determinations that will be made by the government in Afghanistan. And we will be there to support them in any way we can. I've not seen any official word on the latest update in terms of the election process.
Q: Is there concern, though, that it's going to slip, it's going to be later than we thought?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I've not heard any official word that that's the case. But we are going to be there to support Afghanistan and help them move forward on the electoral process. President Karzai is fully committed to holding free, fair and open elections. And the President and President Karzai had a good conversation about that earlier this week, at
the NATO summit.
Q: In the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released last night, 48 percent of those surveyed said they believe the President misled the country going into the war in Iraq. That's not a majority, but it is a plurality of those surveyed. I'm just wondering what the reaction is to that. MR. McCLELLAN: Bob, you know, I've known this President a long time, and this President is someone I think the American people recognize as a straight shooter, someone who, when he says something, means it, and does exactly what he says he's going to do. And so, we're more than happy to talk about that issue, but in terms of -- when it comes to Iraq, in terms of the intelligence, the President is someone that laid all that information out before the American people. It was information that was shared by the United Nations, shared by the Congress, and shared by others in the international community, as well.
Q: Can I follow up for a second? Now that sovereignty has been handed over and Saddam Hussein is in the judicial process there, does the President feel that maybe this is a time to mark this moment in this whole epic going on in terms of -- either a speech to the nation, or a speech to Congress, or a prime-time news conference, something to get the message out a little bit more?
MR. McCLELLAN: No updates to his schedule. We'll keep you posted if there is. But the President will continue talking about what we're working to accomplish in Iraq. As you heard him talk about the other day, a free and peaceful Iraq will help transform the Middle East. And he went to Turkey and made remarks there, talking about his Broader Middle East Initiative. This is a broad war on terrorism, and we're fighting it on many fronts. We're going on the offensive, but we're also working to support the advancement of freedom and democracy throughout the world, particularly in a dangerous region like the Middle East, which has been a breeding ground for terrorism. And that's important to our long-term security.
Q: What's the President's view on the apparent lack of progress on budget bills up on the Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, we'd prefer to have a budget resolution by now. But we will continue working closely with members of Congress on the President's highest priorities, winning the war on terrorism and protecting the homeland and strengthening our economy.
One of the most important aspects as we move forward on the budget is to make sure that we do not raise taxes. Our economy is moving in the right direction because of the policies we put in place. And the last thing we need to do is raise taxes that would kill job growth and hurt our economy going forward. So we will continue to work with members of Congress on that plan that the President has outlined for fully funding our priorities, as well as holding the line on spending elsewhere in the budget, and moving forward on his commitment to cut the deficit in half over the next five years.
Q: Is there any plan to make a more concerted effort next week when they get back?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we always are working very closely with Congress on these issues, and we will continue to do so. I think if you look back at the previous years, this President has worked to make sure that our priorities are funded and that we restrain spending elsewhere in the budget while we've been working to slow the rate of growth in government spending.
Q: Vice President Cheney's favorite newspaper suggested in an editorial today that Saddam's trial be postponed, in part because it might produce political dividends for the Bush reelection campaign. Saddam, himself, expressed a similar sentiment today. Just so we're all clear, did the United States exert any pressure on the interim Iraqi government to begin these proceedings now?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about all the editorials, but the decision to have Saddam Hussein and his band of oppressors face justice by the Iraqi people was made by the Iraqi people. The interim governing council that was put in place early on began a process to set up a special tribunal, a special Iraqi tribunal, to try Saddam Hussein so that he would face justice for the atrocities that he is responsible for committing. And so this is Saddam Hussein facing justice by the Iraqi people in an Iraqi court.
Q: Does the increased assistance of NATO and the transfer of power free up the U.S. military to put more troops on the ground in Afghanistan to now go after Osama bin Laden?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that's assuming that there are not troops going after Osama bin Laden right now, and there are. In terms of the resources that are needed, we look to our commanders in the theater to make those decisions, and then we make sure they have whatever resources and troop levels they need to accomplish their mission. And you bring up one individual who remains a priority for this administration in terms of bringing to justice, but I would point out that we are making great progress in the war on terrorism. As I pointed out, it is a broad war on terrorism. We are capturing or killing top al Qaeda leaders, whether it's Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, or Hambali, nearly two-thirds of the known leaders have now been captured or killed. We're also confronting the dangers of state-sponsored terror and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. You're seeing great success when it comes to countries like Libya, who have disarmed and dismantled their WMD programs. You're seeing great progress in terms of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan recognizing the importance of confronting these threats. Saudi Arabia is cracking down on terrorism and going after those most-wanted leaders of al Qaeda within their own country. They're also cracking down on terrorist financing. Pakistan has taken the fight to al Qaeda.
So we're making important progress, but it is a war that continues. And this President will continue waging this war, on the offensive, until it is won.
Q: Scott, is the President going to present a formal legislation, his plan to reform immigration law in the U.S. before the elections of November 2nd?
MR. McCLELLAN: Ultimately, it's up to Congress to introduce the legislation. We've been in discussion with them; there's been some various legislation that has been proposed by different members. The plan that the President outlined remains a priority, and we have continued to have discussions with members of Congress to move forward on those efforts.
Q: Is the President worried that some polls seems to show that the tendency of the majority of the Hispanic vote is more than ever in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate than the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I pointed out, the President is going to continue reaching out to all Americans from all backgrounds. That would include the African-American community that we talked about earlier, include the Hispanic community, and he's going to do so based on his record and vision for this country. And you might want to talk to the campaign more about some of those efforts that are underway.
Q: Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 1:37 P.M. EDT
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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